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Friday 5 – How to rise above cliche.

Anything cliché means death to a writer.  #atinybitmelodramatic #notreally

For the longest time, I assumed cliché just referred to certain phrases, like fast as lightning or slow as a turtle. But I was wrong.

1. Premise

Editors, agents, and readers are all looking for that unique story that sweeps them off their feet. #cliche None of us want a tired plot, one that has been redone to death. For example the girl and the paranormal love triangle. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write that. It just means it has to be really, really good with a unique angle. And isn’t breaking into publishing hard enough?

Solution: Don’t stop at the first idea. Keep making those lists and twisting those plots until you’ve got something all your own.

2. Character

For me, there are two different levels of a clichéd character.

First, there is the stereotyped character: jock, cheerleader, hottie bad boy, geek. Not that we can’t use these kinds of characters. But as with plot, the approach must be different and written well.

Second, there is the one-dimensional character. This character has no depth and comes across unbelievable.  And because of the lack of depth comes across cliché. #notgood

Solution: Make character charts. Give the character relationships with secondary characters that have goals and troubles too. Build in world details. Create a primal internal arc with a universal struggle that any reader can connect with. Dig deep.

3. Plot

Don’t make your plot points predictable. With this, the reader can see what’s coming pages before it happens. Surprise the reader!

Solution: Donald Maass break out tips are great for creating turning points that no one expects. And usually, it comes back to character and having them make the choices that no one expects.

4. Villains

Cliché villains have the black twirly mustache and evil laughs. Or they could be the mean girl or the bully. They have no soft side and are there just to cause trouble for the protagonists with very little reason. In other words, they are 2 dimensional and are only there to further your plot.

Solution: Give your villain a save the cat scene. Show his/her softer side. Pretend the villain is the hero – what does he want? Give him plausible and empathetic motivations.

5. The writing

For me, clichéd writing is dull and out of focus. The details are bland or average. Weak verbs. Poor sentence structure or too much of the same structure.

Solution: Use strong verbs. Work hard at creating emotion in the description, setting, and body language by using it to reflect the main character. Vary your sentence structure. And practice, practice, practice.

I’m stopping at five. But anything can be cliché: setting, weather, description… you name it. And the biggest ways to improve is to read, read, read and write, write, write. But to read and write with purpose. Go for it!

Join in our Twitter Game today and share a cliche! Hashtag #writingcliche

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Five reasons I might not finish your book.

My kids are out of school in about two weeks, so I’ve really been pushing to get this rewrite done before I take a break from it. But last night my brain was burned out so I picked up a book I started a few days ago.

I stopped reading after six chapters.

Closed the book.

And decided not to finish it.

1. The first chapter was the best.

It had great emotion that made me care about the character. And then the initial conflict dissolved and the emotion evaporated in the next few chapters.

Don’t let this happen to you.

2. Lack of connection to the protagonist.

The story was told in first person and the voice was pretty good. But the internal conflict did not grab me on a personal level. The character would comment on the situation and other people but did not go deeper and make herself vulnerable.

Don’t let this happen to you.

3. Too many characters introduced at once with no connection to any of them.

Just like when we meet a large crowd at a party, it’s hard to remember them. But, if we have a real conversation with one person, we’ll remember them. As a reader we crave that connection. Too many characters with just physical description do not create that bond.

Don’t let this happen to you.

4. Well-worn paranormal plot with a lack luster twist.

An overdone plot really needs a huge twist that makes the reader think this story will be different than all the other ones out there like it that are written better. Without it…well, we all know what happens.

Don’t let this happen to you.

5. Writing that is just okay.

Let’s face it. We all recognize great writing. And when we read a book that combines great writing with a great story, we want to sleep with the book under our pillow and prop it up next to our computer. I think this is where practice and polish comes into play. And some natural talent.

Don’t let this happen to you.

You tell me. What are some reasons you’ve stopped reading?

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Jocks and Stereotypes

J is for Jocks and Stereotypes – my favorite male leads

I only have to look at my some of favorite books in the last few months to find my favorite male leads. PERFECT CHEMISTRY, WICKED LOVELY, NIGHTSHADE…

These main guys could’ve been a stereotype. And I guarantee I would not have liked the book as much if they were.

What do Alejandro, Seth, and Ren have in common?

They all had potential to be a stereotype.

Alejandro, the Mexican, belongs to a gang, lives in a low economic area, good with mechanics, and has tattoos.

Seth, the bad boy, lives alone, tons of piercings, hot, somewhat of a playboy.

Ren, the alpha werewolf is tough, demanding, cocky.

So what made me fall in love with these seemingly shallow stereotypes?

Alejandro loved his family. He was willing to cross lines and visit Brittany in her home. He was sweet. He was willing to die for his family. And ultimately, he was willing to turn his back on his “brothers” to be with Brittany.

Seth, for all his looks, put Aislinn first. He’d given up the life of a playboy to wait for her. He believed in her. He was sweet, caring, and was nothing like you’d expect to be from outward appearance.

And Ren. Yes, he was all Alpha. But there were times, where the author showed how much he cared for Calla. How much he was willing to do for her. If I were Calla, I’d choose Ren.

The only time there is a stereotypical character, male lead or not, is when the character is underdeveloped.

Who are some of your favorite male leads? What did you like about them?

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What exactly is a Character arc?

C is for Character Arc

Several years ago, I attended what was called a master class for writers. A respected and successful author from a nearby community was the teacher. How better to learn – right?

I showed up with my trusty notebook ready to absorb all the writing tips I possibly could. I’m sure I stared at him with my stars in my eyes and a look on my face that said, ‘I want to be like you’.

He opened it up for questions at the end. And I asked about character arc. With my pencil posed to scribble down the magical answer, I waited for his answer.

He couldn’t give me one. Gasp! He was one of those authors that did everything naturally. #whateverIhatethosekindofpeople

So here are my thoughts on character arc:

It’s the growth of a character from a place of emotional instability and flaws – known as internal conflict – to a place of confidence and acceptance of those flaws.

Through his/her actions and paying the consequences – known as external conflict – the character’s beliefs are tested and he/she learns new truths and changes accordingly for an emotional and satisfying end.

Was there a concept when you were starting out that you didn’t quite understand?

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Should writers follow screenwriting tricks?

My 200 followers book give away and Act I critique ends Monday!

The post on Monday got me thinking about this. And Jennifer Hoffine pointed out that when creating the best-worst character, we run the risk of falling into cliche. (But when isn’t that a problem?) Why should we follow screenwriting tips? I mean, after all, I’m not writing a screenplay. What are the benefits?

First you have to figure out your goals as a writer.

Do you want to write a story that captures the attention of agents and editors? Do you want to become a best seller? Do you want to write high concept? (The answer doesn’t have to be yes.)

Okay, do you have to write high concept?

No. Absolutely not. But if you answered yes to the questions above you might want to try. I know. It’s hard.

But as is usually the case I can think of successful stories I loved that I don’t consider high concept. (Kate Messner’s The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z., Sugar and Ice; and Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine.)(I think those stories are the hardest to write because the success lies in the writing, emotion and character development – not the premise.) (Okay, I think any story is hard to write. And all stories need those elements.)

What about following my heart?

For me, being a writer is about being flexible.

  • It’s willing to give up a story idea that is nice and quiet.
  • Or it’s working with that nice story and making it bigger and more powerful.
  • Or it’s totally changing that story to something completely different but keeping the heart through theme.
  • It’s about giving up my vampire novel for something that isn’t quite so overdone.
  • It’s about staying within the market but not following trends.
  • It’s about changing the character who first popped into my head so he/she fits (or should I say doesn’t fit) the story better.

I think it’s possible to follow your heart, stay true to yourself, and write to get published. Be flexible. (Yeah, I’m still working on it all!)

Benefits of following screenwriting tricks:

  • Tight, well-structured plot
  • Great premise
  • High concept
  • Marketable
  • Active scenes
  • Stronger character arc

If you absolutely rebel at the idea of high concept and want to write your quiet but powerful literary novel then you must read this interview with agent Erin Murphy.

So what do you think? Agree or disagree with me? Thoughts? Who thinks we should just write the story and not think about high concept at all?

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